Monday, March 10, 2014

News Articles: Update on Free TV Licensing Issues

Long time no see!  

First off, my apologies for the lack of posts and updates in recent weeks.  I've had a lot going on the past month or so and unfortunately, due to time constraints, this blog became lower priority for me.  With that said though, I'm officially 'back' now, working on posts and trying to get back into the swing of things. Sincere THANK YOU to the readers of my blog for your continued dedication and patience! :-)

Ok, so now on to the main post...

As I've been 'catching up' on HK entertainment stuff, I came across a few articles from this past week that give a little bit of an update on some matters related to the free TV licensing issue.  Now, you might be wondering -- what TV licensing issue?  Isn't that over already with the issuance of new licenses to NowTV and i-Cable and the 'infamously controversial' snubbing of HKTV last year?  Well, yes and no.  

The licensing controversy involving HKTV, NowTV, and i-Cable may be over -- for now -- but there's been another licensing issue going on simultaneously (actually since a few years ago, even before the licensing decision came out last year).  I'm sure those who had been following the licensing issue avidly will remember that both of HK's current free TV stations -- TVB and ATV -- are up for license renewal in November 2015.  As part of the renewal process, both TV stations are supposed to participate in 'public consultation' sessions hosted by the Communications Authority (formerly the Broadcasting Authority) whereby ordinary HK citizens (aka 'the public') get to voice their opinions -- good or bad -- about both stations.  During the sessions, representatives from both stations as well as from the CA sit at a long table and listen to the public speak -- of course, both stations are allowed to give their 'concluding statements' at the end where they can refute some of the public's arguments if they want, but for the most part, they are sitting there taking notes.  

I've been watching news coverage of the public consultation sessions (there have been 3 of them in the past 2 weeks) and let me tell you, it's quite interesting to watch -- some of the audience members actually make very good, valid points while others say things that don't make an ounce of sense whatsoever.  The 'highlight' for me though is watching how the management at both TVB and ATV respond to the 'feedback' that they are being given face-to-face -- both stations got 'clobbered' with tons of criticisms but ATV got hit especially hard (TVB at least got some praises for some of their programming...ATV got mostly fact, it started to feel like a 'bash ATV' session after awhile).

Anyway, since I haven't posted in awhile, I decided to include a few articles related to the public consultation session as well as 2 related articles about some 'aftermath' from last year's controversial licensing decision and also the latest 'firing' of yet another ATV senior executive.  All are interesting reads and provide pretty good updates on some of the things going on outside of the standard celebrity news articles.

Enjoy!! :-)


Article 1 (published March 11, 2014):

Watchdog urged to be transparent over ATV and TVB licence renewal

Source:  SCMP

Lawmakers have criticised as "opaque" and "unclear" the yardsticks set by the broadcasting watchdog for the renewal of ATV and TVB's broadcasting licences next year.

Members of the Legislative Council's panel on broadcasting urged the Communications Authority to instead set clear criteria - and to recommend the government refuse a new licence if either of the free-to-air stations fails to make the grade.

Both stations have attracted controversy. TVB has been accused of taking advantage of its dominant position in the market, while cash-strapped ATV has frequently fallen foul of the watchdog - often due to allegations of interference by its mainland investor, Wong Ching. Both - but especially ATV - have faced complaints of pro-Beijing bias.

The authority was seeking lawmakers' views on the licence renewal process, which is also subject to a two-month public consultation, ending on April 3.

Its chairman, Ambrose Ho Pui-him, told the panel it would take into account the track records of the licence holders, their financial strength and public opinion before making a recommendation to the chief executive.

"We shall assess the three factors individually and then come up with an overall assessment," Ho said.

But People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, once an ATV presenter, said: "An overall assessment can be very subjective. We need a more transparent system."

League of Social Democrats chairman "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung said the watchdog should set clear criteria and make them public, so citizens could monitor its work.

"I daresay all the people of Hong Kong want ATV to fold," Leung said. "I wonder why the authority would still need to consider giving it a licence."

Others referenced the row over the last round of free-to-air television licensing decisions last year, when the government went against the watchdog's recommendation and gave new licences to only two of the three bidders: existing pay television players Now TV and Cable TV. The decision sparked huge protests.

Labour's Cyd Ho Sau-lan asked whether the station that missed out, Hong Kong Television Network, would automatically get a licence if ATV or TVB were rejected.

Ambrose Ho declined to speculate. He said the watchdog would make a recommendation on whether to renew the licences around November, but the final decision would be for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The authority held the last of three hearings on the renewal process in Sha Tin last night. As at previous hearings most of those who spoke criticised ATV's programming. Ho promised to consider the views raised.

The Legco panel will hold a special meeting on Saturday to listen to the views of concerned groups on licensing renewal.

Yesterday's panel meeting also endorsed a request from RTHK to retain the position of deputy director of broadcasting for the next five years to help the government-owned station prepare for its move to a new headquarters. The headquarters plan has been delayed by at least two years after another Legco panel rejected a funding request following a huge rise in costs.

Panel members also approved a HK$64.2 million plan to allow RTHK to extend the reach of its digital terrestrial television stations to 99 per cent of homes.

Article 2 (published February 17, 2014):

Second blowup set in license row

Source:  The Standard

A new drama will unfold this evening when a public hearing on TVB and ATV is held.

It's part of the public consultation process on their licenses that are due for renewal in 2015. Three sessions are scheduled - after tonight's on Hong Kong Island, the others will be held later in Kowloon and the New Territories.

Although the hearings are hosted by the Communications Authority, senior executives from both TV stations will attend. Will they be chastised by radicals, like what happened during the mid-term review in 2009, when then TVB general manager Stephen Chan Chi-wan was dogged by opponents whenever he appeared in public?

As the host, the authority is duty- bound to ensure the public can air their views properly. It's obvious the regulator has learned from past experience and isn't taking any chances in the face of the intense interest everyone has in TV.

At least, it has set the ground rules prohibiting anyone from carrying protesting banners and placards into the City Hall Concert Hall - amid fears they would disrupt the hearing.

Its staff have made it clear to protesters they will be expelled if they cause a ruckus. For example, well- known activist Lui Yuk-lin has been warned.

The hearing won't be a question and answer forum, but it'd be unrealistic to expect opponents to stop playing tricks.

TV licensing has always been a sensitive issue. But what happens next may differ from what transpired five years ago. At that time, protesters went after TVB, while ATV was basically the supporting character.

Their roles will likely be reversed, as recent commentaries in local newspapers were more critical of ATV than TVB.

The so-called "Wong Ching Incident" - in which ATV executive director James Shing Pan-yu was forced to quit the station - has dealt ATV a huge blow. That's unprecedented in local television history.

Public opinions are rather one-sided: ATV doesn't deserve a license in view of its dismal performance. It will bear most of the heat.

Of course, TVB has its own share of detractors, but the most controversial issue - the row over the government's rejection of a free-to-air license for HKTV - had nothing to do with TVB.

While it's inevitable for the debate to spill over to the shattering of HKTV boss Ricky Wong Wai-kay's dream, TVB is safe, as its dominant position in the industry makes it too big for a rejection to be viable.
But it's clear TVB isn't taking any chances, as a recent minor incident revealed.

While the public heard about how speedskater Barton Lui Pan-to complained of being left in the cold by the SAR's Olympics officials during the Sochi Winter Games, a local daily reported that the image of the "Snow Lion Flag" - a symbol of the Tibetan independence movement - appeared in TVB's coverage of the sports event.

The image turned out to be fake, doctored by netizens. TVB immediately raised the matter with the newspaper and demanded a clarification - putting out a potential fire.

If the license review is a test for both stations, it's also a test of the authority's skills to conduct it fairly and peacefully.

Article 3 (published March 11, 2014):

Terms set on renewal of licenses for TV stations

Source:  The Standard

The Communications Authority will consider TVB's and ATV's financial viability and operation capabilities when handling their renewal bids for free-to-air TV licenses, its chairman said.

Ambrose Ho Pui-him also told the Legislative Council's panel on information technology and broadcasting that the authority will consider public opinions when handling the applications of the two stations.

The broadcasters' licenses will expire next year.

People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen asked about the criteria for renewal.

"We will base it on the operation and financial capabilities as well as their TV programming arrangements," Ho said, adding that the authority will seek public opinions.

"We will also take into account their performance, implementing their license terms, legal requirements and code of practice in the past," Ho said yesterday.

The authority will also take into account any violation of regulations.

The authority will then make their recommendation to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in November, before the Chief Executive in Council makes the final decision.

The panel also passed a non- binding motion by Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching demanding the government take into account whether the two broadcasters had shown professional integrity before renewing their licenses.

In a related development, the authority held the third public hearing in Sha Tin Town Hall on the license renewals last night.

Outside the venue, a group of ATV supporters staged a rally to demand the authority renew its license.

Others urged the government not to renew the license as its programs mostly lack quality.

Article 4 (published March 11, 2014):

Consultant in TV row to sue old firm for HK$10m

Source:  SCMP

A consultant who alleges she was asked to resign after speaking out against the government in last year's television licensing row says she will sue her former company for more than HK$10 million she says she is owed.

Jenny Ng Pui-ying, former managing partner at Value Partners, said that after the company announced she had resigned "voluntarily" it had issued a dismissal letter to avoid paying out money due to her.

In an interview with the Economic Journal, she accused the consulting firm - engaged by the government to report on the issuing of new free-to-air television licences - of "tackling" her with "an unusual action".

She told the Chinese-language newspaper that she decided to resign and her resignation was accepted before reports emerged she had been pressed to quit after the company's Italian founder, Giorgio Rossi Cairo, received a complaint accusing her of breaching confidentiality.

The complaint came after Ng came out in December to say that the government had used a report from her consultancy as a shield against criticism of its decision not to grant a free-to-air television licence to Hong Kong Television Network. She said it had quoted "a few paragraphs" from a 400-page report "out of context" in seeking to justify the awarding of licences only to applicants backed by pay-television players Now TV and Cable TV.

Value Partners said on February 5 that Ng had quit "voluntarily" in a letter dated January 22.

After her departure, she said, the company issued a letter of dismissal because, she claimed, it did not want to compensate her for lack of notice or compensate her for leave owing.

She was quoted as saying she believed "someone had stirred up the matter" but she had no evidence to point to the government. Ng reiterated in the interview that she did not regret speaking out against the government, but what upset her most was that her contribution to the company had been wiped out.

In an invitation to a press conference this afternoon, Ng wrote that Value Partners "had unreasonably withheld her salary and bonus of more than HK$10 million" and "her personal e-mail account was hacked".

Ng could not be reached for comment last night. Value Partners had not responded to questions about Ng's accusations.


Article 5 (published February 27, 2014):

ATV drama continues as chief lodges complaint

Source:  SCMP

ATV is embroiled in controversy again. Its boss has filed a complaint with the broadcasting watchdog, accusing the station's high-profile investor Wong Ching of meddling in its affairs.

In a letter addressed to Communications Authority chairman Ambrose Ho Pui-him and other members of the watchdog, ATV executive director Louie King-bun wrote that Wong had on multiple occasions interfered in the station's operations.

"As ATV's executive director, I must report Wong's multiple interference in ATV's operations," Louie wrote in the letter, dated yesterday, a copy of which has been obtained by the South China Morning Post.

The television station was last year fined HK$1 million and its former chief James Shing Pan-yu ordered to step down after the authority found that Shing had allowed Wong, who is not a member of ATV's board of directors, to interfere in its operations.

Louie wrote that, against his wishes, Wong had been instructing him to disregard contractual rules in the handling of business affairs. Wong later asked Nicholas Li, a vice-president who handles financial affairs, to carry out his instructions, Louie added.

"But Li's act was against the company's principles," Louie wrote, without elaborating. "I terminated his employment, but [ATV's largest stakeholder] Wong Ben-koon and Wong Ching asked me to give him another chance … [so] I reinstated Li."

According to Louie, Wong Ching sent him a text message on Tuesday afternoon, listing "three crimes" the station chief had committed. That same day, Wong Ben-koon met Louie in Shenzhen and said Louie had to leave ATV because he had not complied with Wong's orders.

At midnight yesterday, Dragon Viceroy, an ATV stakeholder controlled by Wong Ben-koon, issued a statement that Louie was no longer on the station's board of directors. "This is why I must report this. I am still the head of ATV's management as of now," Louie wrote.

The watchdog yesterday confirmed receipt of a complaint regarding control over the station's operations. It declined to name the complainant, but said it would follow up on the matter. Last night, Louie could not be reached for comment and ATV did not respond to inquiries.

Last August, Louie, former executive editor of leftist newspaper Ta Kung Pao, replaced Shing after the authority ruled the latter breached licensing terms by letting Wong interfere with ATV's day-to-day operations.

The authority began its investigation in July 2011 after allegations that Wong gave instructions on a newscast falsely reporting the death of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin .


  1. ATV is beyond hopeless and needs to close down. I seriously hope they don't get their license renewed! I mean do they even have any artistes left? I used to support ATV even until 2005 when they still 1 or 2 great series. Their series were the type that you'd want to rewatch many times mainly due to Chan13 (Joey Meng's husband) amazing scriptwriting of course. But at the same time it was sad to see so many of their artistes not getting the fame yet act 10x better than TVB's. Pretty much after airing My Date With a Vampire 3, ATV hit complete rock bottom and that was the last series I watched. It was quite unfair for ATV they always made original and better storylines yet because of the video quality and years of bias from audience they never were able to regain ratings. It didn't help that TVB used those illegal monopoly tactics which limited their options of artistes.

    1. @sport3888: It's funny that 10 out of 10 people want ATV to shut down, yet their executives are still singing their own praises and acting as though nothing is wrong. I honestly don't see any reason for renewing ATV's license because they pretty much fail in all the major categories. This will actually be the government's opportunity to prove whether they are corrupted or not because based on the 3 criteria that they are supposed to use when deciding on renewal (track record, financial strength, public opinion), ATV has been getting big fat "F"s for should be a no-brainer that they shouldn't get a license.

      Speaking of Interview with a Vampire....did you read about ATV's ridiculous antics recently (this one almost tops the 'Wong Ching dancing Gangnam Style in front of govt headquarters' thing)?

      ATV is re-airing Interview with a Vampire right now — the station actually held a promo event a few days ago complete with blessing ceremony and everything to ‘announce’ that they were re-airing the series (though of course, none of the artists from the series were present). For ATV to ‘go all out’ just to announce the re-airing of a series from more than 15 years ago? How pathetic is that?? They obviously have nothing better to do!